My Friend Scar

Remembering Richard 'Scar" Lopez of the original Cannibal & The Headhunters

By Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: September 15, 2010

My Friend Scar

I've been pretty lucky to meet and make friends with many talented music artists of my generation and genre, along with many older legends over the past 11 years that I've become "aka FRANKIE FIRME".

I've also been unlucky to have to say goodbye to many of them after just a brief period of acquaintance.

The great Lalo Guerrero, Bobby Espinosa, Issac Avila, Victor Pantoja, Pete Perez, Dick "Huggy Boy" Hugg, Marvin "Rip" Spencer, and Romeo Prado are just a few of the guys in Los Angeles whose talents & accomplishments in Chicano Music I have admired for years, and I finally got to meet them later on in life, and know them for just a short while‘«™before they left for that stage up in heaven‘«™.

And now, I add my late friend, Richard "Scar" Lopez, one of the original members of Cannibal and the Headhunters, to that list.

As a young kid, I first remember seeing Cannibal & The Headhunters singing "Land of 1000 Dances" on one of my favorite TV shows in the mid-1960's, "The Munsters". Then, on a TV music variety show "Hullabaloo", then the Saturday early afternoon favorite after cartoons, "American Bandstand".

Man! But they were cool! Black hair all greased and combed back, thin and handsome in sharp matching, creased suits, smiles that melted my older female cousins & their friends, and dancing and singing in step & harmony‘«™man! They were some cool Chicanos from East L.A. that we all wanted to look and act like! "Land of 1000 Dances" was playing on every radio station in L.A., and now, these guys were going on tour with THE BEATLES to New York !

How cool was that? Everybody knew who Cannibal & the Headhunters were on the East Side, with nick names like Cannibal, Rabbit, Scar, and Yo-Yo, and like the original Thee Midniters of Whittier Blvd fame, they were "The Beatles" of East L.A‘«™screaming girls adoring them and all‘«™and every young guy in East L.A. wanted to join a band‘«™even us adolescents!

Scar always seemed to be the ching??n of the bunch...handsome, serious, perfect hair, barely half smiling in most pictures, with dark, brooding "don't mess with me" eyes, and that ever present sense of "Cool Vato" about him‘«™

When finally I met him years later in 1993, he still had that "don't mess with me" type of bearing, although he was a little more mellow. I was a nurse working at a local hospital in East L.A. , and Scar was a patient recovering from a bout with pneumonia. He had regular visits from Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia, who worked at another hospital nearby, and I got to meet him too.

I remember how a couple of older nurses would come up to the floor with old record albums they wanted autographed, and younger nurses would scratch their heads in bewilderment. Who were these guys?....Photographs of course weren't allowed.

I remember Frankie as having a smile and giggle in his talk, and Scar was always serious. He wore glasses later on in life, and could stare over the top of the rim like a priest, making you feel uncomfortable.

I told him that once and he laughed, telling me how wild his young life was, and that NOBODY had ever compared him to a priest. We hit it off.

I didn't see him again until nine years later in 2002 in Los Angeles, at the East L.A.~ Boyle Heights Tribute Concert headlined by TIERRA & LALO GUERRERO, produced by Ruben Guevera. I wrote one of my first stories for LatinoLA then, mentioning my surprise at seeing Scar & Rabbit on stage again‘«™.Scar still had that "Cool" about him. I met up with him backstage and teased him about that "Priest" look with his glasses, and he just gave me a big hug and said "Hey, man! Don't say that over the air! I got a reputation!" and we laughed.

For awhile, Steven & Janie Chavez managed them for a brief comeback tour, as well as the popular East L.A. Revue All Star Band, and we had some fun gigs, culminating with the 40th Anniversary of the West Coast East Side Sound Concert at UC Riverside in 2005, featuring the East L.A. Revue Band, The Blendells, the Premiers, and of course‘«™Cannibal & the Headhunters, with Scar & Rabbit.

Scar sure loved being on stage. Probably the only time he was really happy later on in life, as his health began to slip away. When he knew nobody was looking, he could be a funny, goofy guy backstage‘«™he and I shared some good jokes & laughs backstage at some shows.

As a friend, Scar also showed up to a couple of my live shows around L.A., and was always an enthusiastic member of the audience, sometimes teasing me that he didn't recognize me unless I was wearing a hat & zoot suit‘«™and I would tease back with "Bless me father‘«™", and we'd laugh over a cold one.

The last time I saw Scar was a couple of years ago when he, Rabbit, and Greg Esparza showed up at my house for my Lady's birthday party. I had asked him, Rabbit & Greg to surprise my Lady & sing Happy Birthday. Just before that, the great Johnny Hernandez, of Texas's La Familia fame, who was in L.A. at the time and was a very welcomed guest, had just finished singing a heart rendering version of "Las Ma??anitas", getting all the ladies in the house to "artificially" swoon and scream. One of those fun moments older babes pull off every so often‘«™you had to be there...

Scar joked "We can't top that! I'd rather shake his hand and get his autograph than sing after him! I'm a big fan of Little Joe & La Familia!"‘«™.and that's just what they did‘«™and we all laughed together over a hot bowl of pozole, standing in my kitchen, and just hanging out, enjoying the moment‘«™.

‘«™that was the last time I ever saw Scar Lopez.

This Saturday, September 18th, I'll get my last chance to tell him goodbye‘«™and I will miss the brother‘«™.may he rest in peace!

Note: A memorial service will be held for Richard 'Scar" Lopez this Saturday, September 18th, at the Destiny Community Church International in Whittier, CA, starting at 3:00. For more info,. click here

About Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor:
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